Bangladesh has started relocating a second group of Rohingya Muslim refugees to a flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal.
Authorities in Bangladesh began moving 1,804 Rohingya Muslims to Bhasan Char Island — which only emerged from the sea 20 years ago — in seven ships on Tuesday.
“We are ready to receive the new arrivals,” Navy Commodore Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury said from the island.
The United Nations (UN) says it has not been involved in the process but has called on the government to ensure any relocation is voluntary.
Earlier this month, a first group of more than 1,600 Rohingya was moved from cramped refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char.
The Dhaka government says no refugee is forced to move to Bhasan Char, but some refugees from the first group said they were forced to go to the low-lying island.
Concerns have also been raised by Amnesty International.
“(A) lack of transparency in the consultation process with refugees, and allegations from within the community about cash incentives being offered to Rohingya families to relocate to Bhasan Char as well as use of intimidation tactics are making the relocation process questionable,” the human rights group said.
Meanwhile, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abdul Momen told Reuters the island was “completely safe” and dismissed safety concerns.
Cyclones hit the Bangladeshi coast very frequently. One cyclone in 1991 killed about 143,000 people.
The government has constructed a 12-kilometer embankment to protect the island along with housing for 100,000 people.
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine to neighboring Bangladesh — joining more than 200,000 already there — following a military-led crackdown in 2017 that the UN has said was perpetrated with “genocidal intent.”
The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and considered illegal immigrants despite their ancestral roots dating back centuries.